In his introduction to The Teachings of Don B, Thomas Pynchon praises Donald Barthelme’s soups:
Those recipes. That oxtail soup mix. That “burgoo,” with the frozen ducks in it? A notable moment in chef psychopathology, to be sure — yet such is Barthelme’s genius that even the most porkophobic or duck-intolerant among us is drooling, unashamed, by recipe’s end.
I don’t own The Teachings of Don B, but Pynchon’s description (which I found while looking for something entirely different) piqued my interest (first and foremost: was the recipe even a real thing?). Anyway: Via Maude Newton, via Overnight to Many Distant Cities, and then an additional Google search to The Purest of Treats:
FINE HOMEMADE OXTAIL SOUP
Take Knorr Oxtail Soupmix, decant into same any leftover meat (sliced or diced) from the old refrigerator. Follow above strategies to the letter. The result will make you happy. Knorr’s Oxtail is also good as a basic gravy maker and constituent of a fine fake cassoulet about which we can talk at another time. Knorr is a very good Swiss outfit whose products can be found in both major and minor cities. The point here is not to be afraid of the potential soup but to approach it with the attitude that you know what’s best for it. And you do. The rawness of the vegetables refreshes the civilization of the Soupmixes. And there are opportunities for mercy–if your ox does not wish to part with his tail, for example, to dress up your fine Oxtail Soup, you can use commercial products from our great American supermarkets, which will be almost as good.
And if you’re into Lenten observation:
FINE HOMEMADE LEEK SOUP
Take one package Knorr Leek Soupmix. Prepare as directed. Take two live leeks. Chop leeks into quarter-inch rounds. Throw into Soupmix. Throw in ½ cup Tribuno Dry Vermouth. Throw in chopped parsley. Throw in some amount of salt and a heavy bit of freshly ground pepper. Eat with good-quality French bread, dipped repeatedly in soup.
(See also: Gordon Lish’s recipe for chicken soup).
Emily Dickinson’s recipe for cocoanut cake, via Tori Avey at the The History Kitchen. Avey’s post is great—she guides the reader through making the cake, includes photos of the process, and even pairs the recipe with an appropriate poem. And of course, she transcribes Dickinson’s scratchy notes:
Emily Dickinson’s Cocoanut Cake
1 cup cocoanut
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoonful soda
1 teaspoonful cream of tartar
This makes one half the rule–
At Victorian Web, Philip V. Allingham shares a recipe for Charles Dickens’s punch:
“Charles Dickens’s Own Punch,” according to Brenda Marshall in The Charles Dickens Cookbook (1981), was that with which Mr. Micawber regales the eponymous youth in Chapter XXVIII of David Copperfield , the literary progeny with whom Dickens most closely identified himself. In an 1847 letter Dickens gave the following recipe for this second punch:
Peel into a very common basin (which may be broken in case of accident, without damage to the owner’s peace or pocket) the rinds of three lemons, cut very thin and with as little as possible of the white coating between the peel and the fruit, attached. Add a double handful of lump sugar (good measure [although Dickens had rather small hands]), a pint of good old rum, and a large wine-glass of good old brandy‹if it be not a large claret glass, say two. Set this on fire, by filling a warm silver spoon with the spirit, lighting the contents at a wax taper, and pouring them gently in. Let it burn three or four minutes at least, stirring it from time to time. Then extinguish it by covering the basin with a tray, which will immediately put out the flame. Then squeeze in the juice of the three lemons, and add a quart of boiling water. Stir the whole well, cover it up for five minutes, and stir again.
At this moment of crisis, the inimitable Boz suggests skimming off the lemon pips and doing some judicious sampling before one places the jug (sealed with leather on top) in a hot oven for ten minutes. However, the text’s editor proposes stove-top heating instead — “it could possibly alight in a modern oven.”